Kaflia Bay, Alaska - Scott with Coastal Brown Bear in the Background - Copyright Marc Katz

In just about six weeks, I’ll be leaving for one of my mega expeditions. I have been doing fewer and fewer of these because frankly, they get harder and harder for me to do for physical reasons and because I can actually make more money at home. That said, I still enjoy them and as long as I do – I’ll go shoot them.

This time it’s back to Alaska. I’m not after Coastal Brown Bears this trip. I’ll be flying in by seaplane to several locations near Homer, Alaska this March to photograph Great American Bald Eagles. During this trip I will literally be surrounded by Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Hundreds (even thousands) of eagles are thought to inhabit the state in late winter.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” Let us cherish and protect those wild places and the creatures that inhabit them.” Eagles have come back from near extinction, but they are not out of the woods yet. The goal of this trip is to memorialize the eagle and it’s impact on Alaska and the nation.

Alaska is rugged country and in winter, it’s more rugged still. That means I have to give careful consideration to gear – both the kind I wear to keep warm and the kind I need to shoot with.

On this trip there will be tons of gear. I’m shooting lots of video as well as stills. I’ll be shooting with dedicated video cameras, hybrid video cameras, even medium format and compact cameras. I’m shooting with Nikon AND Canon cameras and lenses. Then there are the accessories like flash, lens/sensor cleaners, batteries, memory cards, etc.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2008 - All Rights Reserved

It will take me the better part of two days to get from Vegas to my ultimate destination. The same goes for coming back. So with all the time, trouble and expense involved, I want to make sure I give myself the best chance possible of success.

So here’s a lesson for all of us. Before going out on any big shoot, but particularly an expansive field expedition like this one, make sure to test your gear. Make sure everything works. Give yourself enough lead time so that you can send things in for repair if need be before the shoot. If you’re going to Alaska in winter, make sure your clothing is in order. Also make sure you have plenty of spare batteries.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2008 - All Rights Reserved

Then – after you have tested all your gear for the trip, think back up. You need backup for your data, your clothing and your camera gear. What happens if your luggage gets lost? Do you have sufficient clothing with you to make the shoot? Is there a store nearby where in the worst case scenario you could buy new clothes? Then there’s data. How will you back up your files? What if you’re away from power and civilization? Then there’s the camera bodies and lenses. What if they fail? It would be a real shame to go to all this time, trouble and expense and then end up with bupkis because your gear went bad and you had no backup.

In my case, I’m bringing my main gear and then relying on borrowlenses.com to ship me another set of gear to my hotel in Alaska. Then when I leave the hotel for the seaplane each day I can know I have redundancy without having to bring everything I own.

In short, do your homework. Do you have the right gear? Is it functional? Does it need repair to be brought into an operational environment? Do you have backups and the backups for them?

This sort of preparation may seem like overkill, but I’d rather have the hard work on the front end to avoid the heartbreak of getting skunked.

PS. I will have trip updates here on Photofocus.com just as I did when I made bear trip. Stay tuned.
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